Friday, December 12, 2008

Homemade Caramels (Black Licorice and Vanilla varieties)

My mother is an amazing cook. And she's very resourceful. When she tastes something she likes, she figures out how to make it. I like to think I got this trait from her. Often the excitement of going to a restaurant is in trying to recreate the wonderful meal again at home. A few years back my father found some Black Licorice Caramels at the store that he loved, but were fairly expensive. My mom decided that she's just have to figure out how to make them herself, and, of course, she did. Sometimes people don't like the flavor of the anise oil (or simply can't find it) and would like to have some variety. I, personally, always want variety. So you can make up the recipe, then split it in half and flavor some with the anise oil, and others simply with vanilla, or a favorite of mine, rum extract, for other flavors. This recipe will make one 9x13 pan of the same flavored caramels, or two 8x8 pans of varied flavors.

1 cup butter
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp or more black food coloring (my mother uses the paste kind, I use a liquid)
1 tsp anise oil (this is usually found in pharmacies, don't ask me why)

Coat the sides of a heavy saucepan with some of the butter. Add condensed milk, corn syrup, salt, sugar and remaining butter to pan. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until it reaches 244 degrees (at sea level, which is essentially where I'm at, my mother in Utah goes to 230-234 degrees) on candy thermometer (medium-firm ball stage in candymaking). This can be the trickiest stage for me because I'm no pro candymaker. If you don't let the mixture get hot enough, it'll be too soft, if you let it get too hot, it will be too hard. So, if you want a softer caramel, err on the side of a lower temperature, if you want it firmer, err on the side of too hot.
Remove from heat and divide up if you want to try multiple flavors. For vanilla caramels (I think it's obvious which are which) simply add about a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, or to taste. Then for the licorice caramels, (the black pictured above) add about 1 tsp anise oil (you can use anise extract, it just takes a lot more) then taste the mixture, and add more if you like. Then add about a teaspoon black food coloring, or until it gets a nice dark, sludgy kind of color. Blend well. Pour into well greased pans. Cool. Cut and wrpa in wax paper squares. I tried to include this to give you an idea of the size of wax paper needed for a small. long caramel. This picture also brings up another point. See those dark flecks in my caramel? I was impatient and tried to cook them on a medium-high heat instead of sticking to medium, that brown the sugars on the bottom faster, and left these little burned flecks in my caramels, you didn't really notice them in the taste, but it's best to take your time, and cook on a medium heat so that everything gets heated through evenly and nothing burns.

Kraft's White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bars, Gluten-free

This recipe has also been a big hit when I've made it gluten free. And it's simpler to modify. Just make my home-made Oreo's to make the crust, again it takes about 12 cookies, crunched up to make a good crust. The nice thing about Christmas is that you can even combine some things. If you want to make this, and say the Chocolate Mint Christmas cookies, you can make up the chocolate cookie dough, divide it in half, and add peppermint extract to half of the dough, then proceed to make the various cookies (just be sure you distinguish between those made minty and those simply chocolate. Then, use the chocolate cookies as the crust for this delicious cheesecake treat. Everything else is gluten-free and fairly simple to make.

When it comes to drizzling the chocolate over the top, I like to just use a long-tined dinner fork. I'll load the fork with the melted chocolate, then, holding the fork parallel to the bars, move it in a back and forth motion on the diagonal. This allows the chocolate to be spread more thinly and evenly, giving it a pretty look across the top.

Kraft's Creamy Lemon Squares, Gluten-free

I truly love recipe magazines, even if I never make the recipes, I love to look through them and get different ideas about how to make treats. And Christmastime is the best for recipes of yummy goodies. I have always loved lemon bars, but have had a hard time getting a crust that I really like. Well, I finally managed a crust that I like. With three different recipes in front of me, and some creative math, I came up with a great gluten-free crust to use with Kraft's Creamy Lemon Squares.

I like to make mine in a 8x8 in pan, and I like a thin crust, so, here goes.
1/2 cup Featherlight Mix
3 Tbsp Almond Meal (you can grind your own, but I used Bob's Red Mill)
3 Tbsp light brown sugar (I really preferred using the brown sugar, it gave a deeper flavor)
heaping 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup cold butter, cut in pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)

Mix together dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. You want the butter to be cold so that it will be a crisper crust. If you want an extra lemony zing throughout the bar, you can add some zest to the crust as well, I don't actually add the zest to the top the way Kraft does. Then, once the other ingredients are well mixed, use the egg yolk to bind them together. I do this to create more of a pie-type crust. You can also omit this step and pat the dry ingredients together, this will create a more crumbly crust.

Bake this crust at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until golden and you can smell the almonds toasting.

Then, follow the recipe as Kraft gives it, replacing featherlight mix for the 2 Tbsp flour. These will keep well, covered, for a few days in the fridge.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GF Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Cookie

So, ever since I made the excellent gluten-free chocolate oreos, I've been devising a way to make my own Thin Mints of Girl Scout fame. Well, this month in Martha Stewart Living, there was her own take on the greatest little cookie, Christmas style. Well, I took a leaf out of her book, and used her basic idea to make my own little gem. I tried her chocolate cookie recipe, and was not a fan. The dough was incredibly difficult to work with, and didn't have the satisfying crunch of the oreo cookie. I'm not going to reprint the recipe here (sorry) but you can follow the link. But, to make it a wonderful little mint cookie, add 1/2-1 tsp pure peppermint extract to your dough, once it's all mixed together. This will depend on how minty you like things to be. Just taste to see, I'm sure you don't mind an excuse to sample the dough. I have decorated the cookies two ways now, and I'll tell you about both. First, I made them more authentically girl scouty, by dipping them in melted Hershey's Mint Chocolate Chips, they were so good that I ate them all before photographing them, and I couldn't get my hands on any more chips today to make some more. Sorry for the lacking visual. The other way is Martha Stewart's design, and very appropriate for the Christmas season. She suggests to dip the cookie in white chocolate (Melissa and I dipped these in white almond bark which was very nicely white) and then, right after dipping, sprinkle with crushed candy canes. As a tip, try to dip the cookies quickly, because the heated chocolate starts to soften the cookie and some don't hold their integrity. They look beautiful, and taste fantastic, too. And, again, because the base recipe is so great, non-celiacs will be equally impressed.

Ambrosia Macaroons

I get on kicks. Right now my recipe kick is with Bon Appetit magazine. I love macaroons, especially since they're typically gluten free without modification. I also adore the combination of orange and dark chocolate. So, as soon as I saw the spread in the magazine for these cookies, I knew I had to try them. I was interested in the recipe because it has a very different make-up than the other macaroons I've previuosly made. I didn't want to make the whole batch, partly because I was short and egg, and also because I'm trying not to inundate myself with such calorie-laden goodies this Christmas season. So, I did a little fanagling with the recipe, but really, it's all Bon Appetit. I also have to admit that I loved making them because I love the drip method of adding a bit of chocolate cookies. I have a master's degree in Art History, and I loved feeling a bit like Jackson Pollock in creating these beautiful cookies. Yes, food is an artistic outlet for me. Enjoy!1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
dash salt
grated peel of one navel orange
2 eggs
4 cups coconut, packed (I used a 14 oz bag, plus some)
4 oz Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips

With rack in center of oven, preheat to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add orange peel, then eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in coconut. I used a large cookie scoop to drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto the parchment, leaving them in a mound for a nice round look. Bake macaroons for 20-25 minutes, or until they're browned on the bottom, and throughout the cookie. Allow the cookies to cool on the pans, to finish cooking through. Once cooled, melt your chocolate and, using a fork, drizzle the chocolate across the rows of cookies for a nice added touch. This made about 30 cookies for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Peanut Butterscotch Cookies with Hershey's Chocolate Bits

As the December weather gets colder, I turn to the oven. Partially to help heat up our apartment, and also to warm myself from the inside with great baked goods. I've also been thinking a lot about cookies and candies lately with Christmas coming soon. I've planned to post some of my favorite cookie recipes, and figured I might as well start with the cookies I made today. I've mentioned before that I LOVE butterscotch chips. I still remember being a very small girl and walking into a bulk confectionary with my mother, and going over to the bin of butterscotch chips and just drinking in the aroma. I was about 4 years old at the time, and I still remember.
But, I always loved oatmeal butterscotch cookies. Even with the new gluten free oats, the cookies I've made just haven't been the same, and so I've been looking for another outlet for my favorite chip. I think I found it!
Today I was thinking about those butterscotch chips, and what I could do with them, and I thought about making the scotcheroos that are also delicious, then I thought, why not make my peanut butter cookies, and add butterscotch chips and chopped Hershey's chocolate bars? So, I did. I may not have been the first person to combine these, but, I will tell you all that they're fabulous.

I'm sure I've posted this cookie recipe before, but I'm happy to do it again. Because it's super simple. I always have it memorized and never have to look at anything for reference.

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
I like to cream the peanut butter and sugar first, then add the rest of the ingredients and beat well. Then, I add the mix-ins, here I added about a half to 3/4 cup of Hershey's butterscotch chips, and then about 6 mini Hershey's bars that I broke apart in my hands.

Form into teaspoons sized balls on your ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly before baking. I love soft and chewy cookies, so I always bake mine for 8 minutes. It seems the perfect time. If you want them a little crispy, then bake for about 10 minutes or until golden browned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving coming up, I've been asked to post some of my favorite gluten free recipes, and tips for making the holiday easier.
Our first Thanksgiving after the diagnosis was spent at our church bishop's house at a potluck where John could only eat one or two things, none of which were really that good. The last two years have been amazing in comparison.
If you're making your own meal, it can be fairly simple to keep your food gluten-free, and if you're cooking for a celiac, there are a few things to know about where gluten is found in some Thanksgiving favorites, and how to replace it.

First of all, the turkey. This is so easy to make gluten-free. But, many people do add just a little bit of flour to the bird for browning. If you use an oven-bag for your turkey--which gives you a great juicy bird--it calls for a few tablespoons of flour. You can use any rice flour or even cornstarch to avoid this. And, in speaking of the turkey, gravy is typically thickened with flour, but can be thickened just as easily with cornstarch, though you only need half the amount of the called-for flour if replacing it with cornstarch. I typically use a sweet rice flour for thickening gravies (I got it at Trader Joe's, now Wegman's carries another brand, but it doesn't seem as easy to find).

And, of course, the stuffing. I assumed that I would never have stuffing at Thanksgiving again, but then, after making a lot of breads, figured that gluten-free breads would work quite well in stuffing. Which is correct. I've gone to other people's homes the last two years, with many non-celiacs eating my foods, and they've even preferred my stuffing to the gluten filled varieties also available. I just modified Bette Hagman's recipe.

First of all I take about 6 slices of brown-rice bread (John buy's the Food for Life brand, brown rice bread sweetened with fruit juice), and cube them to make about 2 1/2 cups
1-2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 cup butter
2 large cooking apples, peeled cored and diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (more or less) GF chicken broth
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup craisins (optional)

Mix the poultry seasoning and bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute half of the apple cubes, celery, and onion until the apple and onion are translucent. Add this mixture to the bread cubes, along with the beaten egg. Mix in the chicken broth, a little at a time, until the dressing has the texture you desire. Add the remaining apple and craisins (or other mix-ins) to the mixture. Season with salt. I bake my stuffing separately, so I make sure there is plenty of broth, put it in a 1 1/2-2 quart greased casserole and bake for 1 hour at 375, or whatever works with what I have in the oven. You can add other little things like nuts or orange peel or other things to flavor it as you like.

Thankfully, cranberry sauce is already gluten free, but it really does taste best if you make your own, and that depends on your recipe. There are so many varieties out there, this is one I have for Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
1/2 orange
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, pippin orMcIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Directions: Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into 1/2-inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving. Or cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a sauceboat and pass at the table. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups.

Mashed potatoes are also gluten free, although you have to be careful when adding things like butter and sour cream to be sure that they are free from all crumbs. For instance, if you use butter from a tub that you use to spread on wheat toast, it will contaminate the mashed potatoes and make your loved one sick, so use new, un-tainted butter and sour cream.

My sister Emily inherited a family recipe from her in-laws that is now a favorite in my own family for Aunt Margaret's Sweet Potatoes.
3 lbs yams
¾ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

If using fresh yams, chop and boil until soft. Put in a casserole dish and mash. Add remaining ingredients, mix all up, and sprinkle with a little brown sugar and chopped pecans. The recommended time and temperature is 400 degrees for 30 minutes. It really just needs to be warmed up and so it can be put in the oven with whatever else you’re cooking.

I know that a lot of people consider Green Bean Casserole to be a Thanksgiving staple, we never did, but I was intrigued when I came across this recipe in my EatingWell magazine. I haven't tried it, but it seems easy to just replace the flour with GF mix and make what I would assume would be tastier as well as healthier, and don't forget gluten-free, version of an old classic.

My preferred recipe for green vegetables is Lemon-Thyme Roasted Asparagus. We all love it.
2 lbs fresh asparagus, trimme dof any tough stem ends
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a baking dish, mix together everything but the asparagus. Add the asparagus and toss to coat. Loosely cover them with foil and roast until teh asparagus is just ender, 15-20 minutes, tossing once about midway through the cooking time. Take care not to overcook. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes roasting time.

And, lastly, but certainly not least, the pie. I've said this before, but will repeat it here: gluten free pie crust is very difficult to make. The safest way to make a great pie crust is to use Gluten-Free Pantry perfect pie crust mix. Honestly, it's great. It makes enough for 3-4 pie crusts, but they freeze very well. Last year, I had a panic because the stores were out, and I didn't know what I would do. Luckily, my great friend Melissa bailed me out by bringing one of her pie crusts over to me so I could still make the apple pie I'd promised. I have actually now taken this pie crust mix, and made my own approximation and you can find my from scratch recipe here. Also, eating gluten free has a good from scratch recipe for a very rich and thick pie crust, I used it for a berry pie, and it was great, but it is very thick and rich, not as light and flaky as my recipe.

Typically, it's easy to make the pie filling once you've got the crust made, knowing that you have to replace any wheat flour with a gluten-free variety. My favorite kind of apple pie is Dutch apple pie, and the streusel topping can be more temperamental. My favorite gluten-free version comes from Bette Hagman:
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Mix together flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or two forks until medium-sized crumbs are formed and it all looks moist. Toss int the pecans and mix with a fork. Sprinkle this streusel over the pie.

And I've never been a big pumpkin pie fan, so we make pumpkin cheesecake. This year I was planning on using this recipe from Bon Appetite.
Obviously, you have to use gluten free ginger snaps. You can buy your own at the store, but my experience has been that they're incredibly gingery, and if you haven't guessed based on my other recipes, I make my own. I was able to modify my mother's gingersnap recipe to make them gluten free and tasty.

3/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups Featherlight mix
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and molasses, blend. Mix togther flour, xanthan gum, soda salt and spices; blend into the butter mixture. Roll into small balls, then roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or untl they have melted and puffed. For crisper cookies, bake until they have flattened. Cookies bake down to form perfect rounds with traditional gingersnap crakcs on top. Makes 5 dozen.

Okay, so this is incredibly long, but at least it has some of the basics of Thanksgiving to help anyone, if nothing else, know that a good, traditional Thanksgiving dinner is still possible gluten-free.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Basics for Beginners

I've focused mainly on baking in this blog, which is all fine and good, unless you've just been diagnosed, and don't want to go out and buy a ton of flours to make one simple thing. There are many everyday meals that do not require extra flours to make, or even any baking. I just want to have a simple post to give some ideas. I'll add full recipes later, and hopefully pictures, but I have to start somewhere.

For those new to the diagnosis, it just keeps getting easier to be celiac. I get a call from someone at least once a week asking for help for a friend or acquaintance new to cooking gluten free, and that's just through people I know personally. Because the diagnosis is becoming much more common, food manufacturers are becoming much more aware of gluten in their foods. Many companies now include on the packaging whether the food contains gluten or not. Which can be very helpful since simply reading labels can be far too enigmatic. I recently bought some apple cider from Celestial Seasonings, and was glad that I noticed the line on the side which read "Contains gluten". I don't know if it was the caramel color, or the maltodextrin, but at least I know that it was there in some form, and not to feed it to John. Our rule of thumb tends to be that if we're not sure, he just doesn't eat it. But, there are many ways that he stays good and healthy.

So, some basics. Because we have a split family (celiac and non-celiac) we have to divide a lot of things in our kitchen. We have a toaster for glutenous breads, and the toaster oven is for the gluten free variety. We have separate butter, peanut butter, and other spreadables for each, with the gluten-free varieties marked on the top with GF in magic marker. Any more, the only pastas we buy are gluten free, because they're getting cheaper, and the De Bole's rice and corn pastas are widely found in grocery stores, I buy mine at Walmart. Most spaghetti sauces that I find are actually okay, but I also have a good recipe for making your own sauce in the crockpot that's a favorite at our house, it just requires some planning. (I'll add this later)
It's also easy to get Tinkyada lasagna noodles and make your favorite old lasagna recipe. Most companies have a number on the jar of pasta sauce to call if you have any questions as to whether or not they're gluten free.

Two of our standard meals are naturally gluten free. First of all: John loves tacos. We had a standing joke in my family for the first few years of our marriage that if there was ever a special ocassion for John, I'd make tacos. In my family, food is the centerpiece for our celebrations. I remember asking John for our first Valentine's day what his favorite food was, so I could make a nice romantic dinner for us to have at home (as we were both graduate students and couldn't afford going out to a restaurant). He said tacos. I ended up making some kind of coconut kourma instead, because I wanted it to be nice. But John's just a basic kind of guy, and tacos work perfectly for him. We use corn tortillas, fried up, shredded cheese, ground beef with McCormick taco seasoning (this is gluten free, though others aren't), and lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and salsa. Most fresh salsas say right on the package if they're gluten free. Our favorite brand is the Garden Fresh Gourmet, which is gluten free. It's an easy, cheap meal, that tastes great.

Our second favorite meal, is also favorite because of its inexpensive nature, and ease of cooking. I love to roast a whole fryer chicken (usually under $1/lb at Walmart and other grocery stores) in the crockpot. It makes it so tender and juicy, and for about $4 I can use the meat for at least three meals for my family of 4. I love to do a lemon basil chicken. I take a handful of fresh basil, chop it up, and place a few tablespoons of it under the skin at the breast, then I put the rest in the cavity. I take a lemon, cut it in half, and pierce it through a few times, then add it to the cavity. I spray the bird with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put it in the crock on high for 3-5 hours. It tastes great! I also like to use Italian seasoning. It tastes really great to cut up a carrot, celery stick, and white onion, and add to the cavity with some fresh flat-leaf parsley if you have any. Then, I'll use a McCormick italian seasoning grinder and grind some seasoning all over the outside of the bird. This also tastes great.
The chicken can be served with potatoes or rice and steamed vegetables or a salad. It's easy and naturally gluten free. Watch out for various salad dressings. I am lucky enough to live by a Wegman's here in PA and so they mark each of their dressings as gluten free or not, so I really rely on that, but I've also been able to tell fairly easily with some Newman's Own dressings (our favorite is the Raspberry Vinaigrette). If you're making your own fresh vegetables, there's never any question as to what's in them. Generally stay away from frozen veggies in sauces, as they usually use wheat as a thickener, but some are okay. Check labels, and call companies.
Then, with the leftover chicken meat, we love to make soup. I don't like to make my own stock, I guess I'm just lazy, so I use Herbox boullion for the broth of my soup. They say right on the container that they're gluten free. I like to use some vegetable broth and some chicken broth, just because I like to mix things up. Then I add celery, carrots, onions and the chicken. We used to love to do chicken and rice soup, which does work very well, but lately we've been more into chicken noodle soup. You can use any type of gluten free pasta for this. I've recently come upon the Schar brand, which is a European brand that makes really great pasta, and I like the Fusilli for my soup, but we also just use De Bole's rice spaghetti.
I also love to use the chicken to make tacquitos. I learned the recipe from my friend two years ago, and she learned it from her Mexican mother-in-law. It's authentic, it's easy, and it tastes great. You just pull out your corn tortillas, heat some vegetable oil on medium heat, fry the tortialls slightly until they're pliable, put a bit of shredded chicken right down the center, roll them up, place them back in the frying pan seam-down, and fry up till browned. Then, serve with whatever garnish you like. We love to dip ours in a mixture of sourcream and fresh salsa.

We also love simple pot roasts, beef and pork. A lot of pot roast recipes might tell you to dredge the meat before browning, but this is unnecessary, and you don't need to use flour to make the gravy, just cornstarch. Also, be sure to use a gluten free boullion, but this can be very simple to just modify your own favorite recipes.

I have neglected to mention Asian cuisine. We love Chinese food, but you need to be careful of the soy sauce you use, since most brands are made with wheat. La Choy is gluten free, and so are a lot of store brands. We really like Tamari sauce, made by San J, but sometimes tamari's that are gluten free can be hard to find. I even have my own knock off version of PF Chang's (wonderful gluten free menu if you're not aware) lemon chicken. I'll have to post it later. And, usually cornstarch is used as a thickener. Serve over rice, and you're good to go.

We've also recently become big fans of Thai food. Thai Kitchen, and many other brands, mark clearly which products are gluten free. We love to make curries with Thai Kitchen curry pastes, just using the recipes on the sides, which are gluten free. If spicy foods scare you, don't worry, when you make your own, you can make it as spicy or as mild as you want.

We also have a couple favorite steak recipes. One of which is as simple as you get. Take the steak, cover it in rock salt, then let it sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (no more), put it on the grill and cook to your desired doneness. This gives it a really great saltiness and really tenderizes your meat so it's totally tasty.

In terms of side dishes, there are a lot of ways to mix up the basic rice and potatoes to not feel like you're always eating the same things. At first, we got really into risottos, adding asparagus or mushrooms or peppers to make it taste different. We also started varying the type of rice used, we love jasmine and basmati rice, and like to throw brown rice in sometimes. You can also add juices, broths, cocount milk, salsas, etc to your rice to flavor it differently. John loves mashed potatoes, but we also really like to mash sweet potatoes with some brown sugar, butter and pumpkin pie spice. I love those new microwave steamer bags and will cut up red potatoes, and all kinds of vegetables for an easy meal. If you're feeling ambitious, polenta can be a very tasty side as well, it just takes the right seasoning and some time to make it really good.

I hope this is at all helpful, but wanted to at least include it here for those of you not sure how to start cooking after the initial diagnosis, or for friends of celiacs who want to cook them a dinner from time to time. Good luck!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

I was never a fan of pumpkin pie growing up. Our first Thanksgiving after John's diagnosis we made the grave mistake of going to a pot-luck dinner. The food was terrible, even everything laced with gluten. We had assumed it would be easier for John to eat than it actually was, and I remember John thinking he could just scoop the filling out of the pumpkin pie. We decided that there were just too many crumbs to risk it, and I had frankly thought that pumpkin pie filling without the crust sounded gross. Well, if this dessert is any indication, I was sorely mistaken. Just think of this as the pumpkin pie, with the whipped cream mixed right in, and instead of some boring pastry crust, a crust of sugar right on the top. It was a big hit among my family members. The recipe comes from Bon Apetit and has modifications based only on what I had on hand, and servings.

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2-3 egg yolks (depending on the size of them, 3 medium, or 2 large or x-large)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
raw brown sugar for sprinkling and burning on top

Turn on full tea kettle. Preheat oven to 325. Whip pumpkin and sugars in a medium mixing bowl. Add vanilla and egg yolks. When mixed thorougly, add spice and salt. Heat cream on medium heat until just before boiling. Add gradually, whisking into the pumpkin mixture. Pour into 4 ramekins placed in roasting pan. Put in the oven, and fill the roasting pan with boiling water, until it goes about half way up the ramekins. Cover them with tin foil, and bake for 50 minutes, or until set. Chill for a few hours. When ready to serve, remove from the refrigerator and immediately sprinkle with raw brown sugar. Using a culinary torch, burn the sugar. If you don't have your own torch (which I highly reccommend getting) then you can place them on a cooking sheet under the broiler of your oven, which will also burn the sugar for you.

This is very rich, and a half of one of these four servings will be enough to fill you, but it's good enough that you can still eat a whole one yourself.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

GF Pumpkin Waffles with Buttermilk Syrup

Again, from my sister's cookbook, I've modified an excellent recipe. We always love to have breakfast food, even for dinner, and I was intrigued by this recipe. I was a bit skeptical about the buttermilk syrup, especially while it was cooking and foaming over the stovetop, until I took a little piece of an already cooked waffle and dipped it in the syrup: it was so delicious! I really didn't have to modify much either. I added xanthan gum the first time I made the waffles, and the second time, I decided to try without. I'm trying to move away from including the gum in recipes that don't need it because (1) it's so expensive and (2) not all people can tolerate the gums. I was pleased that the waffles were fine without it. I also didn't have any more buttermilk on hand the second time I made these (I was using left-over syrup) and so I used the trick of 1Tbsp lemon juice in a cup measure, and adding milk until it was full, leaving it to sit on the counter for a few minutes. I really do reccommend using actual buttermilk, it really helps to "puff" the waffles and give them more substance, but they do still taste great with the substitution. And now, the recipe! (I will include the full recipe from the cookbook, although I'll let you know it makes a lot of waffles. I have a small, double waffle iron and from that it made about 20 square waffles. The second time I made it, I halved all the ingredients and made about 10. The waffles to store well and toast up great as leftovers if you want to make a large batch and have some on hand.)

1 1/2 cups Featherlight
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup GF mix
4 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter or oil
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat waffle iron (I always spray mine with Pam a few times while cooking, the oil helps crisp the outside of the waffles). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda salt and spices in a medium bowl, set aside. In a large bowl (I use the bowl of my stand mixer) beat eggs slightly, add in melted butter, brown sugar, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Alternately add in dry ingredients and buttermilk, just until blended, do not over-beat.

Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 cup butter
2 tsp white corn syrup
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, sugar, buttermilk and corn syrup in large pan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Mixture will foam to twice its height. Stir and serve warm on pumpkin waffles. (I left it foamy the first time I ate them and it was still delicious, but my sister said she just kept stirring until the foam went down and it was a typical syrup, easy to pour on the waffles. Store leftover syrup in the refrigerator and reheat to serve.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Finally! Great Gluten Free Pancakes

So, I apologize now for the lack of picture, but these buttermilk pancakes were so good that they were gone before I could get a camera out. But I wanted to post the recipe anyway. I've never been a great pancake baker. I like pancakes, but they can be really finicky to make. I finally got a griddle with those little pancake forms to pour my wimpy GF pancake batter into, but with this recipe, I could actually pour my own. I've also had a lot of trouble with good pancakes falling flat on me, these held firm. My sister sent me a cookbook of recipes compiled by other members of her church, and it's been a great base for me to modify recipes. I just haven't been good at taking pictures, or sharing the recipes. So, here's my first.

These buttermilk pancakes made enough for my little family of four to be satisfied (8-10 pancakes).

1 cup GF mix
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/2 Tbsp oil
1 cup buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients in a 1-quart bowl with a spout (I always use my Pyrex measuring bowl for such things, or my Pampered Chef batter bowl). Then, add the eggs, oil and buttermilk, mix with a fork until everything is incorporated. Pour on a griddle heated to medium. These are really excellent, I hope you enjoy them, too!

Monday, September 1, 2008

GF Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

So really, this is a cookie recipe, but I've found that the best way to eat these cookies is with a little bit of ice cream sandwiched between them. The recipe comes from my sister and is a modified recipe from Alton Brown's Food Network show.

8 ounces unsalted butter or butter flavored shortening
11 ounces brown rice flour, approximately 2 cups
1 1/4 ounces cornstarch, approximately 1/4 cup
1/2-ounce tapioca flour, approximately 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
10 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 1/4 cups
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons whole milk (I omit the milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup toffee pieces
1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream butter. Add both of the sugars to the bowl with the butter and using the paddle attachment, cream together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixtures until thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate, toffee and nuts, and stir to combine.

Brown says to chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, approximately 1 hour. I wasn't patient enough, and just tried to put it in the fridge between batches. The ones that had been chilled held better, so it does seem worth it, but 20 minutes if probably sufficient. I baked it the way I always like my cookies, small for 8 minutes, though 9 was a little better done.

To make the ice cream sandwiches, after the cookies have cooled a bit, take a large (soup size) spoon and run it shallowly across the top of vanilla bean ice cream, then place the ice cream on top of one cookie, and top with another of equal size. Voila! Great gluten-free ice cream sandwiches!

GF French Breakfast Muffins

I love my subscription to Family Fun, and sometimes they have really great recipes that I can't wait to modify, but it usually takes me a while before I get around to it. I had planned on making these with gluten first, but really didn't want to eat all the calories myself and decided to go ahead and just make them gluten free. They really did work out well. The only issue I had was that I was going to be pressed for time in the morning, so I made them the night before, and, as with all things missing gluten, they were a bit more dry than I would have liked. They were still good though, and I'm confident that fresh, they'd be even better. I was especially interested in this recipe because it boasted of tasting like doughnuts, and since I still haven't tried to make those gluten free, this can be a quick fix.

1 ½ cup Featherlight mix

½ cup GF mix

2/3 cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ tsp xanthan gum

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 large egg

1 cup + 2 Tbsp milk

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablsespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1. Heat the oven to 375°. Butter the bottoms (only) of 12 standard-size muffin cups and set the pan aside.

2. Measure the flour, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl and combine them with a whisk.

3. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the egg until it's frothy. Blend in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture.

4. Using a wooden spoon, mix the batter just until it's evenly blended, then spoon it into the muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.

5. Bake the muffins on the center rack for 15 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack until the muffins are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes, then remove them from the cups.

6. Before the muffins lose their warmth, prepare the topping. Mix the sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Melt the butter and transfer it to a separate small bowl. Set both bowls next to the muffins.

7. Working one muffin at a time, quickly dip the tops in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar, rolling each muffin in all directions to cover the entire top. If you'd like more topping, roll them in the cinnamon sugar for a second time while they're still warm (I did this and there was still some cinnamon sugar left over). Serve immediately. Makes 12 muffins.

I'm actually really looking forward to trying these out in mini muffin tins, I think that would be great, and would allow for a much shorter cooking time to make it easier to make in the morning and eat fresh. My sister says she usually cuts the cooking time in half for the mini muffins.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Zucchini Bread

I just picked my first big zucchini from the garden last night and decided it was the perfect time to try some zucchini bread again, this time adding a bit of chocolate. I tried a new recipe, just right for the 2 cups of zucchini that the large vegetable yielded.

3 eggs
1 c. oil
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 c. grated zucchini (excess water drained off)
1 c. GF flour mix
2 c. Featherlight flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Mini Chocolate chips, mini cinnamon chips, raisins, or chopped nuts

Beat eggs, add oil, sugars, vanilla and zucchini; mix well. Add flours, cinnamon, salt, soda, baking powder and xanthan gum. Mix well. If desired, add chips, raisins or nuts. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 for about an hour. Cool 25 minutes before removing from pans.

I poured the batter into the pans, then added chips so that one loaf had chocolate chips, the other cinnamon chips. Although it does taste good with the chocolate chips (the loaf pictured) it actually tastes really good with the cinnamon chips, they melt and become like a streusel lining, it would taste really great with good plump raisins in this loaf with the cinnamon chips, if only I could get my family to eat raisins.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Perfect GF Cupcakes!

I love to check out other people's blogs, and do a lot of searching for recipes online. With all the fresh strawberries I got at Way Fruit Farm, I had to make strawberry shortcakes. I like to do this with cupcakes because they're such a nice individual size. I found a recipe online for great gluten free cupcakes, which is, for all of you who have tried, hard to do. Well, she was right, they are perfect, and so I'll recopy it here, but give you the link to her post.

First, start with the Gluten Free Pantry Old-Fashioned cake mix, just the mix
1 pkg vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup orange juice
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp good vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix the wet ingredients in a large bow. Add the combined dry ingredients and beat on high speed for two minutes.
Line 18-20 muffin tins with liners. Fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full for cupcakes with nice mounds on top. This recipe is so great, that when you overfill, it won't just spread out but actually rise up.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden and test done.

All that vanilla extract really masks any taste of the orange juice (which is what makes the cake rise so very well), and these taste really good. They're still rather heavy, but they're gluten-free, so there's not much getting around that.

For the great cupcakes pictured here, I used a bit of lemon curd to make a sweet and tangy frosting that was so great! I only had a few cupcakes left, so I'll try to adjust the amounts of the frosting for you to get a dozen cupcakes, but you might have to fudge with it.

3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp lemon curd
yellow food coloring

Cream the butter, then add the powdered sugar and mix. Add the vanilla and mix, then add enough lemon curd to achieve desired consistency and taste. If you don't want it too tangy, you can also add some milk, and less lemon curd.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Fruit Pizza-Gluten Free

I've always been intrigued by fruit pizza. I've never actually had it, but it's always sounded interesting. My favorite sugar cookie recipe, from, is also said to be a good fruit pizza crust. And then, there's one of my favorite old copies of Cooking Light magazine that features lemon curd. A lot of my memories are associated with smells and tastes. As a child I remember the bliss that was lemon curd from Picolo Mundo, a bakery in Chicago. It was a definite treat for the family, certainly not a day to day thing, but I've loved lemon curd ever since. So, when I got a spread in the magazine devoted to lemon curd, I was quite interested in the food. But, sadly, never got around to making my own lemon curd, and trying all the recipes. Until this week. As I was making Lemon Meringue Pie for Father's day, there were no individual lemons for me to purchase at the store, so I had to buy an entire bag of about a dozen lemons. So, I've found myself with a few lemons on hand to use up, and the perfect excuse to make the Cooking Light lemon curd calling for three fresh lemons. And, after going out to the fruit farm and picking my own fresh sweet strawberries, the perfect excuse for making the fruit pizza featured in the magazine. So, I'll try to add the various elements of the recipe here.
First, I made the lemon curd the night before so that it could thicken in the fridge overnight. The recipe is as follows:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 eggs
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons, I had to add a touch bottled juice to make up the difference)
2 Tbsp butter
Combine first three ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat, and whisk, about two minutes, until sugar dissolves. Then add juice and butter, and stir constantly with whisk about five minutes, or until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Let the mixture cool in the pan, then transfer to a container, cover and chill.The pizza is best served right after being prepared, so this does involve some planning. First make the sugar cookie dough, I cut their batch in half, and still didn't use all of the dough for the crust, I'll give you my halved batch ingredients:
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp margarine
6 Tbsp vanilla pudding powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
scant 1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups Featherlight flour mix

Cream first three ingredients. Add egg, mix well. Add vanilla. Add xanthan gum, baking powder and salt; mix well. Finally add flour mix and beat well. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, until it is still and able to be rolled out. Then, roll the dough out into a 12" circle, about 1/8-1/4" thick and place in 12" pizza pan. I removed dough, and flattened it out until desired thickness, within the pizza pan.
Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes, or until browned, and cooked through.
For the pizza you will need the following ingredients:
2 Tbsp seedless raspberry jam, melted (I used regular jam and just sent it through a sieve to remove seeds)
3/4 cup lemon curd, or enough to spread across the pizza
Container of each of the following berries: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries
2 ripe plums, sliced
2 Tbsp sugar

Melt the jam and spread it across the top of the sugar cookie. Then, slowly drop the lemon curd on top of this, and spread a layer over the jam. Arrange the plums in a circle around the edge of the pizza, then using the berries in whatever order you choose, fill in the concentric circles until you reach the center, and mound the remaining type of fruit so that the surface is covered. Sprinkle the fruit with the sugar, then place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, taking care not to burn the outside edges of sugar cookie crust.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gluten Free Hamburger Buns

Sometimes, lettuce just isn't enough for a burger, and you really want some bread with your meat. I decided that with summer at the gates, I needed to try out a hamburger bun recipe, and was pretty happy with this first attempt.
This recipe comes from Bette Hagman's "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Revised Edition". Although I have the greatest respect for Bette Hagman and what she's done for gluten free cooking, her recipes aren't always my favorites, we don't seem to have the exact same taste, but they're always a great start for me. And sometimes, as in her crepes, I find her recipe to be better than any others I try. I also have learned great tips from her, these are a perfect example with making my own english muffin rings with tin foil. I've hardly modified her recipe, partly out of necessity and also for volume, but will put it in as I made it.

1 cup Four Flour mix
1/2 cup GF mix
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
3/4 tsp Egg Replacer
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup lukewarm water (105-110 degrees F)
1/2 Tbsp yeast
2 Tbsp butter flavored Crisco
2/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 egg
Grease English muffin forms, or make your own by taking 4 10" lengths of tin foil, and fold it in half, then fold it in half again, and then again, until the strip is just over an inch high. Then form a ring, folding one end into the other, and taping together with masking tape. Place these on a cookie sheet and spray with cooking spray on the inside of each.

In the bowl of your heavy duty mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine first 8 ingredients.
In a small bowl, dissolve the teaspoon sugar in the lukewarm water, then mix in the yeast. Set aside. Combine the shortening and water in a microwave safe bowl. Place in the microwave on high for one minute, or until water gets hot. There should still be some solid shortening left when you remove it from the microwave. Continue stirring until all the shortening in melted.
Turn mixer on low speed. Slowly add shortening and water mixture, then vinegar, until combined. Then add the egg. This mixture should feel slightly warm. Pour in the yeast water carefully and beat at highest speed for 3 1/2 minutes. I literally use a timer to be sure it's thoroughly mixed. The dough will be very soft, more like a cake batter, but that's right.
Spoon among your forms and fill half full.
I used a rising tip found in Shauna Ahern's book "Gluten Free Girl". I preheated the oven to 200 degrees, then turned it off and set the pan of the buns in the oven with the door slightly ajar. They doubled in size in about 25 minutes. Then I took them out and preheated the oven to 375 degrees. I put them in and set the timer for 10 minutes, after which I covered them with tin foil so as not to burn the tops, then set the timer for another 10 minutes when they were done. I left them on the pan to cool while I grilled the hamburgers. I had to use a sharp knife to run around the edges to remove them from the forms, but it was quite easy. These were a little thicker than I liked for the hamburgers, and dense as most gluten free breads, but really quite good. I might fudge with the recipe a bit, and perhaps make more buns, but I've included shots of the assembled burger, and a cross section to see the texture so you can check it out for yourself. It sure beats lettuce.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Treasure Chest Cake--Gluten Free Yellow Cake

Yes, I'm crazy when it comes to birthday cakes. My mother always made the coolest cakes for us, and so I have to do the same for my daughter. In the past I've just not made them gluten free, but this year I figured I'd give it a shot. She decided she wanted a yellow cake to look like gold inside the treasure chest. I've had okay success with yellow cakes in the past, but nothing that I love, and nothing remotely like the yellow cake you get from one of those wheat-filled mixes at the store. While I was searching online, there seemed to be only one recipe for yellow cake, posted over and over again. Overall, the reviews were quite good, but there were a few bad ones that stuck out to me. So, i found a recipe for a moist yellow cake using cake flour, and I modified it. It actually worked pretty well, except it was far too thin and dense for me to make a treasure chest from, and it didn't seem at all like what I was looking for. It was a good butter cake recipe that would be good as a base for certain things, I'd particularly like to try it with the tres leches, but we'll see. After making that cake, I decided I needed another one, and I might as well take the opportunity to test out "the" yellow cake recipe. I used some of the advice I saw online and baked it with water in the oven to keep it moist, and it seems to have worked well. I had to cook it longer, but it really looks more like a wheat cake mix cake than I've seen gluten free before. I'm not sure about the taste, but I can work on modifying that later.
I am slightly paranoid that in my search for candies that would look like gems and make the decoration look good that I might have slipped some gluten-filled candies in, but hopefully John can just pick those off, get a slice without the treasure. By the way, to assemble the cake, I used Family Fun's template, but I needed to use a 9x13 pan's worth of cake, and I really only needed a 9x9 square cake but I made another 9x13 and had leftover cake. I cut the cakes down so that there are two layers of 9x5 1/2" cake, with chocolate sour cream frosting (made from Better Homes and Gardens recipe), then I cut off a 1" section from the middle of the cake and cut it diagonally down the center to make the wedges (I had to do this with the second yellow cake recipe) which I placed together, about 2/3 of the way to the back of the cake. I played around with them until they seemed they would support the lid in an open position. Then I frosted the bottom, added the wedges, frosted it, put the top on, made sure everything was frosted, and went to work on the decorations, made mostly of fruit by the foot and m&m minis. Voila!

Moist Yellow Cake
4 eggs, separated
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups Featherlight mix
1/2 cup GF mix
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan. Separate the eggs, putting whites in a large glass or stainless steel bowl, and yolks in a small container, being careful not to break them.

Sift together the flours, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In another large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated, starting and ending with the flour mixture.

Now, beat your egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix in the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan itself for 15 mins and then gently tap it onto a cooling rack.

"The" Gluten Free Yellow Cake recipe (can be found all over the web)

1 1/2 cups Featherlight flour mix
3/4 cup GF flour mix
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. I used Pam to spray a 9x13 pan.
Mix the white rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together and set aside.
Mix the eggs, sugar, and mayonnaise until fluffy. Add the flour mixture, milk and vanilla and mix well. Spread batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, with a pan filled with steaming water on the rack below the cake. Cakes are done when they spring back when lightly touched or when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool completely, then frost.
So, I wanted to post a follow-up on this cake. I thought it would be helpful to see this cross-section of the cake to see the difference between the two recipes, as well as to see how I constructed the cake. you can see the two wedges supporting the lid layer, as well as the candy holding up the rim. I also feel that you can see a real difference between the two types of cake. The very bottom layer is the first recipe, the one I modified. It really tastes great, a good dense butter cake, but not a typical birthday cake. I really loved how well the second recipe rose, and stayed fluffy. I didn't, however, love the taste. That needs to be modified, but, all in all it really was a good recipe, especially for this cake.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gluten-Free Scotcharoos--Thanks to Erewhon

I was so excited the other day while in Giant I saw this:First Rice Chex goes Gluten Free, and now a real crisped rice cereal! Life is looking up.
Rice Krispie treats are one of the things I miss being able to make for John, and myself. Especially the Scotcharoo kind. I LOVE butterscotch, and I love sugar. These are so good! And, they're better for you than regular rice krispies, so I didn't feel quite so bad adding all the sugar and fat, though, I try not to think too much about that stuff when I'm making treats.
So, for those of you who don't have the recipe for this great little treat, here is it. I actually still have it on an envelope from my neighbor Rachel when she gave it to me about five years ago.

First, grease well a 9x13 pan.
1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup sugar
Combine in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally, until it starts to boil. Add
1 cup peanut butter and mix until smooth.
Then add 6 cups crisped rice.
Mix all together and pat into the prepared pan. Let cool.

Melt together 1 cup butterscotch chips, and 1 cup milk chocolate chips. I just place them in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave for a minute, then more if they still need it. Mix them together until smooth and spread them over the cooled treats. Let the chocolate sit so that it hardens.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Joy of Baking Banana Bread-Gluten Free

So, right now I'm big on two different things: 1) brown rice flour and 2)
And I've combined the two to make what I believe is an excellent banana bread. The flavor isn't as strong or maybe as sweet as I wanted when I ate it right out of the oven, but I always forget that banana bread always tastes better after sitting over night. I also think that using regular butter as opposed to the unsalted butter that the recipe called for would also fix that. But the texture of this bread is so heavenly. At least to me. So, I'm sharing it with you. I know that the usage of flours is a bit funky, but I was just experimenting, and I'm really happy with the result. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

1 cup Featherlight flour mix (made with brown rice flour)

½ cup GF flour mix (again, made with brown rice flour)

¼ cup Sorghum flour

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

4 ripe medium bananas, mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place oven rack to middle position. Spray a loaf pan (I used a slightly smaller pan, 8x4) with a non stick vegetable spray. Set aside.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl combine the flours, xanthan gum, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nuts. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the batter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.) Scrape batter into prepared pan and place the slices of banana on top of the batter for garnish. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. This bread can be frozen.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flourless Molten Chocolate Cakes

While I really love the other recipe I've posted (and actually prefer it), I'm always being asked by non-celiacs what they can make for celiac friends, without having to buy different flours or xanthan gum. So, I decided I wanted to try out a flourless version of these favorite cakes. My friend Megan, who's a pastry chef, introduced me to I had checked it out before and bookmarked some recipes I thought would be good to try for later (Hummingbird cake, and a Pavolova) and that's where I got this recipe. I didn't deviate at all, so you can find the recipe there, but I'll also type it up here for your convenience. As I was searching for the recipe I wanted to use, I found it funny that one article I was sent to was talking about how flourless cakes are all the rage in restaurants now, and how they're almost passe. I thought that was funny since the inclusion of a flourless torte on a menu makes it so much easier for a celiac. If you can't tell, though, this family doesn't eat out much, preferring to make sure our food is gluten-free.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 0z (about 1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate pieces (my favorites are Hershey's and Baker's)

3 eggs yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. It's best to separate the eggs, and then let them sit for about a half hour until you whip them up. Be sure to put the egg whites into a glass or metal bowl that is clean and grease free. Otherwise, the whites won't whip up. Prepare your ramekins, or cups for baking by generously buttering them and dusting them with granulated sugar. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir until all of the chocolate melts. Set aside.

Whip the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl. Whip them for a few minutes, until they are pale and fluffy, and drop like ribbons from the beaters. Beat in the vanilla. Slowly fold in the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites until they're frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar until the peaks become stiff and glossy. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Fill your prepared ramekins about 3/4 of the way full. Place baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cakes a cooked, but are still a bit gooey in the center. Try not to over bake. Pull them out of the oven and let them sit only about a minute or two before removing them from their ramekins onto plates. Serve with whipped cream, powdered sugar, or my favorite, ice cream.

This batter can be made ahead, but be sure to let it sit out before baking until it becomes room temperature, otherwise, it won't create the molten centers.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Low-fat Lemon Cheesecake

If you can't tell, I love cheesecake. And, I can be a real cheesecake snob. Typically, I won't eat no-bake cheesecakes. But, I also know that my body can't handle all of the calories in a piece of cheesecake that often. So, when my mother found this recipe for a low-fat cheesecake that actually tastes good, I took note. The base recipe comes from, but I'll tell you how I made it, partly to change some of the fat and sugar content to my liking (I don't think fat free cream cheese is ever good), and partly because of what I had on hand. First of all, I skipped the crust entirely. This is a good cheesecake that doesn't need to be marred by bad gluten-free cookies. I do think, however that a crust of a few gluten-free sugar cookies, crushed up would be good, but why mess with something that's good enough?

1 pkg sugar free lemon Jello
1 cup boiling water
1 8 oz pkg 1/3 less fat neufatchel cheese
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
Cut up strawberries, sprinkled with granulated sugar (maybe another 2 Tbsp per one pint)

Dissolve lemon jello powder in boiling water. Let sit for about 5 minutes to cool. Put mixture in blender, add cream cheese and cottage cheese. Blend, pulsing and stopping to scrape down sides, until all is smooth. In a separate large bowl, whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks form, and the cream holds its shape. Slowly pour the mixture in the blender into the cream, folding as you go. Pour into an eight inch springform pan and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours, or until set. (I actually didn't have four hours tonight, so I put it in the freezer for about an hour and a half, then set it out to thaw, and it worked out just fine.)
Serve with the fresh strawberries. This is not a very sweet cheesecake, and therefore it's nice to add a little bit of sugar to the berries if they're also very tart. My mother also adds some lemon zest in with the berries for a stronger lemon flavor and to make it look pretty.
Enjoy, knowing that you don't have to worry about running to the gym directly after eating this.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Basic Coconut Macaroons-Cholocolate Dipped

We were quite nervous and anxious for our first dinner party after John's diagnosis. We had no idea if John would be able to eat anything, and didn't want to offend the host. Thankfully, she knew he was celiac and had gone to great lengths to cook his chicken without any flour leaving off the sauce, to dress her own salad with oil and vinegar (no croutons) and even make polenta as the side dish. Then, she made excellent ricotta cream tarts (she set aside cream and berries in a bowl for John) and chocolate dipped macaroons. This was honestly the first time I had even thought about Macaroons as being an easy thing to make gluten free. Especially in its most basic recipe, which I prefer for its excellent chewyness. It's now a recipe that I crave often, and I made on a whim last night.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 14 oz bag of sweetened flake coconut
1 tsp vanilla

Mix ingredients together. Drop by spoonful onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I try to smash the lumps down a bit. I like my cookies to be a bit flatter, so they brown better and are chewy throughout. If they're in balls, the centers don't cook so well, and I don't like them as much. The cookies will spread a bit, so keep that in mind. I wondered last night while making them if it would be good to add a tablespoon or two of flour to try to keep that spreading at bay.
Bake in a 350 oven for 10 minutes, turning once during cooking to brown evenly.

I remove the entire sheet of parchment to the cooling rack since the individual cookies are still quite sticky. Once they're dried a bit and are easy to pull off the parchment, I melt some dark chocolate in a shallow bowl. My favorite thing to use it just Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips. Then, I drop the cookie in the bowl, and push the chocolate up around the sides. Then, lift it with a fork or spoon and drop it back on the parchment to cool overnight. They're simple, but they're also elegant.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

GF Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My mother makes the best banana bread, and I really loved it growing up. So it has been very frustrating for me to try a lot of bad gluten free banana bread recipes. I finally decided to try and work from my mom's recipe to make a better banana bread. Then I found some great recipes on the web for chocolate, and chocolate chip banana breads. I can't remember exactly what recipes I used to mix together to make mine, but this is what I used today. It's not perfect, and I think I want to play around with adding a mix, but it was pretty good.

1/2 cup margarine, cut in little pieces
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas, mashed
1 cup Featherlight
1/2 cup GF mix
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray. Cream together margarine, sugar, and eggs. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Add xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and flours; mix well. Blend in sour cream and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for about an hour, checking for doneness at about 50 minutes.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I've realized that all flours are not created equally. I switched brands of rice flour because of convenience, and am not happy with the current brand I have. I bought the Arrowhead Mills white rice flour because that was available at the closest grocery store, as opposed to the Indian brand I typically use (which name escapes me now because I don't have a package handy). The old brand was much finer, and so I liked the results it produced much better.
I find it funny that this is on my mind since just a few years ago, I'd never even heard of rice flour, or anything other than good old all-purpose flour. Maybe I'd heard the distinction between "wheat flour" and "white flour", but now find that to be a bit paradoxical. Which reminds me of another tangent. This scene in "Stranger than Fiction" struck a chord with me. When Harold brings Anna flours. I of course loved the wordplay, and thought it was so sweet and personalized for a baker. And, it reminded me of me. I have at least ten flours in my kitchen at any given time, not to mention the various mixes I keep around. This whole celiac thing has certainly opened my eyes to a lot of variety out there. And, it's really exciting in many ways. So, hope you enjoy my little non-sequitor. Sorry there's no recipe attached.

Pastel de Tres Leches--Gluten Free

I did a class for my church on Authentic Mexican cooking, and for that class, I got a recipe from a friend for a Tres Leches cake. I didn't make it then, because the recipe was based on a cake mix, but I figured that it would be a good thing to try with a gluten free cake once I got a good recipe. I hadn't thought much about it until we were at a dinner party at John's advisor's last week. His wife, Mimi, is amazing. And she made a Tres Leches cake, and I was sure that I could do it gluten free. So, I started searching. I didn't use the same recipe as Mimi, because this one was simpler, and I figured I might as well just try to modify the easy one first. It tasted really great. So, here's the basic recipe.

The cake is a dense cake that relies on its shape from the folding in of the meringue. I think that this may not require the xanthan gum, but since I always have it on hand, I put it in just to be sure.
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Featherlight flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350oF. Generously butter a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Beat 3/4 cup sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Fold in the milk, vanilla, flour, xanthan gum, baking powder. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, adding the cream of tartar after 20 seconds. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm, but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture. Pour this batter into the buttered baking dish. Bake the cake until it feels firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in baking dish. Pierce the cake all over with a fork, taking care to not tear it up.

While the cake is cooling slightly, whisk together the following ingredients.
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Pour the syrup over the cake, spooning the overflow back on top, until it is all absorbed.Place the cake in the refrigerator over night so that it can soak up all three of the delicious milks. I started to peel away some of the skin on top of the cake to see how it was absorbing, so that's why the cake looks weird on the one side.

Then, right before serving the cake, whip up some cream.
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Spread this over the cake and serve immediately. I love any excuse to use strawberries, and so I garnished mine with fresh berries as you can see.